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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Organ Works

Prelude and Fugue E major BWV 552:
1. Prelude
2. Fugue

Choral Preludes:
3. "Gott durch deine Güte" BWV 600
4. "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ" BWV 604
5. "Das alte Jahr vergangen ist" 2. str BWV 614
6. "O Lamm Gottes unschuldig" BWV 618
7. "Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund" BWV 621
8. "Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ" BWV 639

Choral setting (2nd of 6 Schübler chorales):
9. "Wo soll ich fliehen hin" BWV 646

Partita BWV 745:
10. "Aus der Tiefe ruf ich Herr zu Dir"

Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor BWV 582:
11. Passacaglia
12. Fugue

Prelude und Fugue in F minor BWV 534
13. Prelude
14. Fugue

Hans Helmut Tillmanns (Organ)
Recorded in February 2003 at:
The Weyland Organ of Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Olpe-Biggesee, Germany
(tracks: 1, 2, 6, 7, 10, 13, 14)
The Christensen and Sonner Organ in Hobro, Denmark
(tracks: 3, 4, 5, 8, 9)
The Hammer Organ of the Marktkirche in Eschwege, Germany
(tracks: 11, 12) DDD


There seems to be an abundance of organ recordings released recently which I hope is an indication that organ music is coming back in vogue with music lovers. Eminent German virtuoso organist Hans Helmut Tillmanns continues his survey of the complete organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach for Danacord. With this release, which by my reckoning is the ninth in the series, Tillmanns is almost at the finishing line.

A remarkable virtuoso at the keyboard, J.S. Bach is widely acknowledged as the greatest single figure in the entire history of organ music. There seems little point in giving any biographical or critical evaluations to either J.S. Bach or these organ works as volumes and volumes of academic narrative on this subject have been published over the years.

For this release Hans Helmut Tillmanns uses three separate organs housed in different locations, the Christensen and Sonner organ from Hobro in Denmark was built in 1994 but frustratingly we are not told in the booklet notes the ages of both the Weyland organ at Olpe-Biggesee and the Hammer organ of the Marktkirche in Eschwege, both in Germany. The booklet notes do provide a photograph of each organ and from the picture of the Weyland organ I guess from its housing and configuration that it may have been built in the 1970ís or early 1980ís. The photograph of the Hammer organ shows it as ornately appointed and at a guess it looks to be the earliest of the three by a considerable margin.

I would have liked to have been given more information as all three organs sound very different indeed. The substantial Christensen and Sonner organ has an unusual sound which I did not find directly engaging to the ear. Tillmanns plays four Choral Preludes and the second Schübler Choral Setting on the Danish instrument which at times transmits a rather thin sound with an often piercing, reedy tone and a slight but uncomfortable reverberation. The majority of the works, namely the two Preludes and Fugues BWV 552 & 534, two Choral Settings and the Partita BWV 745 are performed on the magnificent Weyland organ. The instrument produces a clear, colourful sound which is smooth and mellow. Great in the low registers and superb in the high registers, the Weyland organ is one of the finest that I have ever heard. The Hammer organ is used by Tillmanns only for the Passacaglia and Fugue BWV 582 and is a fine instrument sounding especially warm and rich in the middle registers although slightly reedy in the highest passages.

Our soloist Hans Helmut Tillmanns is a first-rate organist and seems eminently suited to the considerable technical and artistic demands of these Bach works delivering detailed and perceptive performances. I particularly liked the tension and high drama Tillmanns gives to the epic Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor BWV 582. The Danacord sound engineers are to be congratulated for producing sonics that are warm and detailed.

I cannot imagine anyone who loves the organ being disappointed by this top-quality release of which Danacord can be justly proud.

Michael Cookson


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